YouTube’s TikTok clone, “Shorts,” is out of beta and should be available to everyone in the US next week. Shorts are 15 to 60 second videos that are launched on mobile in a full screen vertical video interface that users can swipe between. Shorts are just an alternate interface to YouTube videos, and on the desktop site or on a channel page, Shorts appear as regular videos in the normal YouTube interface.
A big draw for TikTok is its video editor, which comes with all kinds of effects, music, filters, and variable playback speeds. YouTube’s Shorts editor doesn’t have nearly as many features as Tiktok, but Google says “we’ll be releasing a bunch of new filters and effects over the next year so you can get the vibe you want.”
Even if you don’t want to watch Shorts, the most notable change from this rollout is a new “Shorts” tab in the mobile app. The tab is in the bottom app-wide tab bar. This gives users a dedicated space to explore all the TikTok-like content people have created, and it provides a stunningly clear app-wide advertisement for the new feature. The bottom tab bar is premium real estate in the YouTube app — it’s present on almost every screen of the app, and it elevates Shorts to the same importance level as “Subscriptions,” “Library,” and the home page. Previously, Shorts only appeared in an easy-to-ignore horizontal carousel on the home screen. Shorts will take the place of the ‘Explore’ tab, which will show trending videos. The Explore page has been relegated to the Home page.
YouTube is the world’s largest video site and the best strategy for fighting potential challengers is to clone them. Google tried to go after Twitch with YouTube Gaming and cloned Snapchat stories with “YouTube Stories,” videos that automatically expire after seven days. This strategy has never been super successful (YouTube Gaming eventually shut down the standalone app), but cloning TikTok makes a little more sense, given that Chinese ownership of the app makes it unpalatable to certain governments.
TikTok is banned in India, so with no competition, YouTube Shorts has taken off in the country, with YouTube announcing “over 3.5 billion daily views” of Shorts there. Google almost had a similar situation in the US, when the Trump administration threatened to ban the app. However, with the transition to the Biden administration, those plans have failed and the current administration has expressed no interest in banning TikTok.